pandemic

An ounce of prevention, they say, is worth a pound of the cure. While scientists suggest a vaccine for the current Coronavirus outbreak may be 12 to 18 months away, even if it were found today, there will always be ongoing risks to operational continuity posed by the outbreak of pandemic disease. Whether operating globally or domestically, every organization should have a pandemic management program as part of its overall disaster and business continuity policy. Here are some guidelines for devising and implementing such a program for your organization.

For organizations leveraging third-party service providers to manage the acquisition, management and administration of the contingent workforce it is vitally important to work with your Managed Service Provider (MSP) to clearly define and enforce pandemic management protocols. Since third-party service providers operate under their own sets of policies and rules, leaving it to an external partner to ensure standards are aligned with your own organizations is a risky proposition. Better to instead include a clear definition of what your organization expects as part of service level agreements established with each staffing agency and independent contractor. It is the responsibility of the MSP to ensure that these contractual commitments are understood and adhered to.

Writing about infectious disease management plans for large business organizations, SHRM’s Allen Smith suggests building a team comprised of HR, legal and IT stakeholders to enunciate a formal plan. The plan, Smith says, must lay guidelines for workplace safety precautions and employee travel restrictions during an outbreak. It should also make provisions for stranded traveling workers and mandate medical check-ups, vaccinations and appropriate medications. Other business rules to put into the plan include mandatory reporting of exposure to employers and public health authorities as well as concrete plans for quarantines and facilities shutdowns. As part of your internal team, the MSP will ensure that all policies and provisions flow down to all resource providers.

Here’s what nextSource recommends as a good baseline for pandemic management policies as part of the broader disaster and business continuity plan. First, the MSP partner should offer a clear and detailed assessment of the critical business functions they (the MSP) support for your organization. The MSP should explain how it intends to manage the uninterrupted execution of these functions during an outbreak to minimize losses. This should include the provision of training to all key personnel, so they’ll be ready to respond effectively when an emergency arises.

Next, the MSP must offer a point of contact to coordinate all aspects of their response with your organization. Identify in advance who this point of contact will directly work with within your organization. Make sure your contact is authorized to act on behalf of your company to enact the emergency measures being dictated by the MSP.

Beyond the organizational and service level considerations noted above, there must also be a concrete order of operations for the pandemic management plan. Here are some basic plan phases and elements to consider when developing a program for your organization.

A safe and solid plan is comprised of three broad phases. Phase I is the initial emergency response which puts into motion the pandemic response activities established with your providers and client partners. Phase II focuses on delivering timely crisis communications, demonstrating to all personnel know that there is steady, prepared leadership at the helm and clearly indicating status and actions to be taken. Phase III must focus on restoration of operations as quickly as can be accomplished.

Key elements to include in a well-devised plan include:

  • Identifying critical operations
  • Coordination with resource suppliers
  • Providing temporary staff to fill in for those affected by the outbreak
  • Temporary relocation of operations if needed
  • Coordination with VMS and other technology providers
  • Testing the plan before an actual outbreak occurs to identify weaknesses in the strategy

For expert help in developing a pandemic response to bolster your organization’s disaster and business continuity plan, contact your nextSource representative today.

To read more on this subject, turn to nextSource for expert guidance and visit our managed services page.